Who is this Awesome Chick?

          I should probably begin by telling you my name. I’m Maria – or Theresa, depending on whom you know me through. A simple question that generates an automatic response from most people is cause for hesitation for me: What’s your name? I dread it. I have to actively think about my answer under the pressure of knowing that I should have had a solid response ready from birth. Who has to think about their name? I’m Maria/Theresa. I have two names. Cue your welcome of acceptance.

          Legally, my first name is Maria and my middle name is Theresa, as stated on all important documents, including my birth certificate and now including my health card. (My mom had reversed my names on my health card because she likes Theresa better. That’s not okay, Mom!) I was named Maria first and Theresa second after my mom’s godmother, but I was called Theresa based on my mom’s preference. Growing up, everyone I knew called me Theresa. When people asked my name, I responded with Theresa without thought.

          Then, my best friend happened. I walked into art class late on the first day of Grade 11, and the closest open seat was right beside the girl who would forever change my name. I slipped into the chair, hoping my new teacher wouldn’t notice. I was wearing a shirt that adorned the words Italian Princess in green, white, and red.

          “You’re Italian?” my soon to be name-changer exclaimed.

          “Yes!” I proudly beamed. “Are you?”


          A friendship was born. Three months later, in December 2005, I was renamed. We were in art class, reviewing for our final exam when our teacher flipped a slideshow to Bernini’s Ecstasy of Saint Teresa. My best friend, then always competing with me for the title of Most Italian (neither of us can even speak the language), commented that Saint Teresa, unlike me, spelt her name the Italian way: no h.

          “At least my name is more Italian than yours,” I retorted.

          Before she could object, I went on to prove it. While I must admit that her last name is very Italian, Bellissimo is a world-renowned Italian word: one point for Theresa, as I was still known. As for her middle name, it’s not Italian at all: two points for Theresa. Lastly, for the winning argument, I divulged the fact that my first name is Maria (every Italian family has at least one Giuseppe and one Maria): three points for Theresa.

          Her mouth dropped. “Why have I been calling you Theresa?” she asked in shock.

          I shrugged my shoulders. “That’s just what everyone calls me. My mom hates the name Maria.”

          She declared that she would call me Maria from then on. I promised to ignore her if she did. I failed to follow through, and she called me Maria forever after: one million stubborn points for Miss Less Italian.

          And so it is, some people call me Maria and some people call me Theresa, resulting in a lot of quick thinking on my part when someone asks my name. I try to respond before anyone notices the strange pause and confused look on my face. Basically, I introduce myself to friends of friends based on the name used by the friends doing the introducing. When meeting completely new people, I go with Maria, because it is by far the better name.

          Prior to The Happiness Experiment, the name that someone called me made all the difference in how I presented myself, because I associated each name with different people and places. It was the same as anyone else acting one way with friends and another way with colleagues. As a result of the confidence I’ve developed through The Happiness Experiment, my personality has become consistent across everyone and everywhere. However, it used to be that only my best friend, who named me Maria, knew the real me. Upon the launch of this blog, when that was still the case, I wanted to ensure that anyone reading knew the real me too, which is why I chose to be Maria to all of you. Now, whether someone calls me Maria or Theresa or doesn’t yet know my name, I am the same person. But I still have a preference. So, to those of you reading for the first time, I’d like to introduce myself: My name is Maria. This is my happiness experiment.

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